Telescope: And may the loudest win

Sangh Parivar stirs up controversy, and free-for-alls on TV.

Written by Shailaja Bajpai | Published: December 11, 2014 12:15 am
UberCabbie Uber Cab driver.

No one could have been more excited than the reporter from IBN-7. He had just witnessed the unmasking of the Uber taxi driver and alleged rapist of a young woman on Sunday night — and he could not contain himself. As we watched footage of Shiv Kumar Yadav’s face beingrevealed to the public, the reporter recounted the entire sequence of events, from the time the young woman boarded the taxi to the moment Yadav was caught by the police, with the rapidity of a bullet train. Perhaps, he feared he would miss out on his few sound bytes of fame if he didn’t rattle on at such speed.

The one person who could have rivalled his verbal kmph on Monday was lawyer Indira Jaising. On NDTV 24×7’s Left, Right & Centre for her views on the rape case, Jaising spoke more swiftly than a Maruti Swift at high speed in righteous indignation and in order to stall The Indian Express columnist Tavleen Singh from getting in a few words. Both commentators were fairly exasperated with each other’s points of view. Jaising upbraided Uber, Singh countered, “It’s not about one taxi company. It’s about how unsafe it is for women to travel” — and the two didn’t mind making a few personal comments.

Indeed, it has now become customary for anchors and guests to indulge in a free-for-all — and may the loudest man or woman win. On Tuesday, Zakka Jacob, the latest moderator for CNN-IBN at 9 pm, and journalist Anna Vetticad were engaged in a verbal shootout, with Jacob trying to stop Vetticad from making further comments, but she continued regardless. That had Jacob fairly pleading, “Please appreciate I gave you so much time to speak.” On Times Now, which was preoccupied with the IPL scandal still unravelling in the Supreme Court, former Indian Premier League (IPL) chairman Lalit Modi gave as good as he got on Super Prime Time. And more.

Nobody can accuse him of being camera shy, or even modest: “I’m the one who made the IPL happen, you didn’t, [BCCI president N.] Srinivasan didn’t,” he proclaimed. “For God’s sake!” came the reply, but Modi was unperturbed. He blissfully continued on his merry way, accusing Srinivasan of having ruined the IPL — “my baby” — and stoutly refuting all charges that he was in cahoots with others at the BCCI against Srinivasan.

It has also become habitual for BJP leaders or other members of the Sangh Parivar to publicly express their opinions/ wishes as fact. And since the media goes wherever they go, nowadays, we find ourselves learning something new from the idiot box, every day. No less a person than the prime minister has claimed several scientific accomplishments for India before they were known to mankind, that is, plastic surgery and genetic sciences. On Sunday, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj asked for the Gita to be made the “national book” of the country at a public function on the Gita, and then claimed that it is a better cure for depression than chocolates and psychiatry.

And then there was UP BJP president Lakshmikant Bajpai claiming that the Taj Mahal was part temple, part a Rajputana palace before it was a mausoleum. Why they make such claims in public, on TV, is a mystery. Maybe an enterprising person should begin new Discovery and History Channels for Indian viewers?

The International Premier Tennis League (IPTL) came to Delhi and what a party it was (Star Sports). Even on television. To watch Roger Federer play alongside Sania Mirza and then play Novak Djokovic was a treat, largely because while we have seen the likes of Federer and Djokovic play many, many times, there was a camaraderie and playfulness to the proceedings that are missing from the more serious encounters. Federer, in particular, was full of good cheer even as he executed a majestic backhand down the line. Good entertainment for Sunday and Monday nights.

Less entertaining to watch are popular filmstars endorsing products that may be injurious to everyone’s health. Even as there’s a major thrust to publicise the harmful effects of chewing tobacco and paan masala in radio and TV commercials, Shah Rukh Khan continues to appear in a TV ad for Pan Vilas. Khan had earlier advertised skin whitening creams. Why does he need to lend his name to products of questionable health value?

shailaja.bajpai@expressindia.com

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